Joshua M. Bernstein’s “The Complete Beer Course” manages to be an educational tool for those trying to figure out what this craft beer thing is all about, as well as those already in the know looking to reinforce and expand on their expertise. And Bernstein’s also finding that the book he wrote for consumers spanning the beer-drinking continuum—from the newbie to the full-on geek—has become popular among industry pros looking to speak a bit more authoritatively about the products they purvey. The book covers everything from the vast range of traditional beer styles to the nuances of different hop varietals. “The Complete Beer Course” (subtitled “Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes) is available now from Sterling Epicure. Bernstein, also the author of Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution, recently shared a few insights with Beverage World.
Beverage World: What did you hope to accomplish with ‘The Complete Beer Course?”
JOSHUA M. BERNSTEIN: I really tried to create an engaging, approachable text…People who are just kind of dipping their toes into craft beer and beer in general can read the book and basically be able to walk into any store—or bottle shop or brewery—and really have an understanding of what the style means and how style doesn’t necessarily mean that something is frozen and locked in time—that style is something that’s continually evolving. And this was the big challenge of the book: [I wanted] to create something that would people who already know what an IPA is and already know what an Imperial Stout is, as well.
BW: How do you go about expanding the horizons of the existing beer geek?
BERNSTEIN: Going around the country for so many years and talking with drinkers, you find that people really like certain styles—people that are super hop heads or people who just want barrel-aged this or barrel-aged that. Oftentimes, there’s a lack of understanding of what the other styles are all about, like what a Kölsch actually is or that there’s actually a beauty in a pilsner. With the beer world in America, we tend to pay so much attention to all of these really, big fireworks styles, but there’s beauty in nuance, there’s beauty in lower-alcohol beers as well.
BW: What surprised you the most in the process of researching, writing and then launching the book?
BERNSTEIN: I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from people who work in the bar industry—I never really intended that as an application. [They’d write] “I work at this craft beer bar, I didn’t really know what I was doing. But I read your book and now I feel confident enough to go out and sell this stuff.” It was never really written as a professional tool, it was more from the consumer end of the spectrum, but but people really have been using it [that way]. The owner of Carton Brewery in New Jersey bought the book for eight or nine people who work at the brewery and he assigned them all to give presentations and talk about these styles of beer.
BW: How would you describe the style in which the book communicates is information?
BERNSTEIN: In a voice that’s never condescending, always approachable and as knowledgeable as possible.